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the representation." The information, it is probable, came originally from Dryden, who from his intimacy with Sir William Davenant had an opportunity of learning many particulars concerning our author.
At what period Shakspeare new-modelled The Merry Wives of Windsor is unknown. I believe it was enlarged in 1603. See some conjectures on the subject in the Attempt to ascertain the Order of his Plays, Vol. II. MALONE.
It is not generally known, that the first edition of The Merry Wives of Windsor, in its present state, is in the valuable folio, printed 1623, from whence the quarto of the same play, dated 1630, was evidently copied. The two earlier quartos, 1602 and 1619, only exhibit this comedy as it was originally written, and are so far curious, as they contain Shakspeare's first conceptions in forming a drama, which is the most complete specimen of his comick powers. T. Warton.
Sir John Falstaff.
Shallow, a country Justice.
two gentlemen dwelling at Windsor.
followers of Falstaff.
Mrs. Anne Page, her daughter, in love with Fenton. Mrs. Quickly, servant to Dr. Caius.
Servants to Page, Ford, &c.
SCENE, Windsor; and the parts adjacent.
ACT I. SCENE I.
Windsor. Before Page's House.
Enter Justice SHALLOW, SLENDER, and Sir HUGH EVANS.
SHAL. Sir Hugh,' persuade me not; I will make a Star-chamber matter of it: 2 if he were twenty sir
1 Sir Hugh,] This is the first, of sundry instances in our poet, where a parson is called Sir. Upon which it may be observed, that anciently it was the common designation both of one in holy orders and a knight. Fuller, somewhere in his Church History says, that anciently there were in England more sirs than knights; and so lately as temp. W. & Mar. in a deposition in the Exchequer in a case of tythes, the witness speaking of the curate, whom he remembered, styles him, Sir Giles. Vide Gibson's View of the State of the Churches of Door, Home-Lacy, &c. p. 36. SIR J. HAWKINS.
Sir is the designation of a Bachelor of Arts in the Universities of Cambridge and Dublin; but is there always annexed to the surname ;-Sir Evans, &c. In consequence, however, of this, all the inferior Clergy in England were distinguished by this title affixed to their christian names for many centuries. Hence our author's Sir Hugh in the present play,-Sir Topas in Twelfth Night, Sir Oliver in As you like it, &c. MALONE.
John Falstaff's, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.
SLEN. In the county of Gloster, justice of peace, and coram.
SHAL. Ay, cousin Slender, and Cust-alorum.3
Sir seems to have been a title formerly appropriated to such of the inferior clergy as were only Readers of the service, and not admitted to be preachers, and therefore were held in the lowest estimation; as appears from a remarkable passage in Machell's MS. Collections for the History of Westmoreland and Cumberland, in six volumes, folio, preserved in the Dean and Chapter's library at Carlisle. The reverend Thomas Machell, author of the Collections, lived temp. Car. II. Speaking of the little chapel of Martindale in the mountains of Westmoreland and Cumberland, the writer says, "There is little remarkable in or about it, but a neat chapel-yard, which by the peculiar Richard Berket, care of the old Reader, Sir Richard is kept Reader, Et. 74. clean, and as neat as a bowling-green."
"Within the limits of myne own memory all Readers in chapels were called Sirs,† and of old have been writ so; whence, I suppose, such of the laity as received the noble order of knighthood being called Sirs too, for distinction sake had Knight writ after them; which had been superfluous, if the title Sir had been peculiar to them. But now this Sir Richard is the only Knight Templar (if I may so call him) that retains the old style, which in other places is much laid aside, grown out of use." PERCY.
See Mr. Douce's observations on the title "Sir," (as given to Ecclesiasticks,) at the end of Act V. The length of this curious memoir obliges me to disjoin it from the page to which it naturally belongs. STEEVENS.
a Star-chamber matter of it :] Ben Jonson intimates, that the Star-chamber had a right to take cognizance of such See the Magnetic Lady, Act III. sc. iv: "There is a court above, of the Star-chamber, "To punish routs and riots." STEEVENS.
Cust-alorum.] This is, I suppose, intended for a corruption of Custos Rotulorum. The mistake was hardly designed by
In the margin is a MS. note seemingly in the hand-writing of Bp. Nicolson, who gave these volumes to the library :
"Since I can remember there was not a reader in any chapel but was called Sir."
SLEN. Ay, and ratolorum too; and a gentleman born, master parson; who writes himself armigero;" in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigero.
SHAL. Ay, that we do; and have done any time these three hundred years.
SLEN. All his successors, gone before him, have done't; and all his ancestors, that come after him, may: they may give the dozen white luces in their coat.
SHAL. It is an old coat.
the author, who, though he gives Shallow folly enough, makes him rather pedantic than illiterate. If we read:
"Shal. Ay, cousin Slender, and Custos Rotulorum." It follows naturally:
"Slen. Ay, and Ratolorum too." JOHNSON.
I think with Dr. Johnson, that this blunder could scarcely be intended. Shallow, we know, had been bred to the law at Clement's Inn. But I would rather read custos only; then Slender adds naturally, Ay, and rotulorum too." He had heard the words custos rotulorum, and supposes them to mean different offices. FARMER.
Perhaps Shakspeare might have intended to ridicule the abbreviations sometimes used in writs and other legal instruments, with which his Justice might have been acquainted. In the old copy the word is printed Cust-alorum, as it is now exhibited in the text. If, however, this was intended, it should be Cust-ulorum; and, it must be owned, abbreviation by cutting off the beginning of a word is not authorized by any precedent, except what we may suppose to have existed in Shallow's imagination. MALONE.
• —— who writes himself armigero;] Slender had seen the Justice's attestations, signed "jurat' coram me, Roberto Shallow, Armigero ;" and therefore takes the ablative for the nominative case of Armiger. STEEVens.
Ay, that we do ;] The old copy reads-" that I do."
The present emendation was suggested to me by Dr. Farmer.
and have done] i. e. all the Shallows have done.
Shakspeare has many expressions equally licentious. MALONE.